Government Shuts Down as Senate Fails to Advance Spending Measure

Last-minute negotiations come up short

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 17: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters in the Ohio Clock Corridor after the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 17: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters in the Ohio Clock Corridor after the Senate Republicans' policy lunch on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 20, 2018 at 12:18am

The Senate on Friday failed to cut off debate on a House-passed bill that would avert a government shutdown and extend funding another four weeks, setting into motion a lapse of appropriations under a unified Republican government. Lawmakers will now aim to make the shutdown short-lived, with the Senate scheduled to reconvene at noon Saturday to advance a shorter-term funding bill and send it back to the House.

Lawmakers spent the day trying to negotiate a deal. Democrats huddled as a conference prior to the vote, while several GOP members met in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short traversed the Capitol throughout the night to meet with House and Senate leadership offices. But in the end, the Senate was unable to muster the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the measure, falling short, 50-49. 

McConnell voted against the measure so he could bring the measure back up for reconsideration. 

President Donald Trump tweeted prior to the vote suggesting that a shutdown was forthcoming.

“Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border. Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy,” the president tweeted.

As the clock struck midnight, the White House sent out a statement blasting Democrats, which McConnell then quoted on the floor after the vote. But voting wasn’t strictly partisan, with some Democrats supporting the measure, and some Republicans opposed.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators,” the White House statement said.

Democrats had made clear for months that their support for further government spending was contingent on dealing with a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, which Trump last year said he would end in March. The GOP attached a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired Sept. 30, hoping it would entice Democrats to vote for the overall measure. But they didn’t bite. 

After McConnell’s floor remarks, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he even offered to put Trump’s border wall on the table to get a deal at a White House meeting on Friday, but the president wouldn’t go for it. “I reluctantly put the border wall on the table,” Schumer said. “But even that wasn’t enough.”

McConnell said on the floor after Schumer’s remarks that he would offer an amendment to the measure that would set up a three-week continuing resolution. 

“At some point here, we’ll be voting on Feb. 8,” McConnell said of the proposed change to the date of the stopgap he would offer to try to reopen the federal government.

“At some point, we’ll vote on that option,” McConnell said, but he said it couldn’t occur tonight. 

Watch: McConnell, Durbin Make Their Case As Shutdown Looms

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The irony there is that some Republicans had proposed such a three-week continuing resolution as a possible compromise earlier in the day.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., shuttling between Democratic and Republican meetings, said he was pushing a stopgap that would extend funding beyond the State of the Union address, which Trump is scheduled to deliver to Congress on Jan. 30.

“I don’t believe it’s fair to [Trump] to have the CR run out the day before his speech,” Graham told reporters. “He doesn’t need to worry about that when he addresses the nation.”

Graham said he thinks negotiators are “on the 10-yard line on a lot of issues,” including defense spending and immigration. “Thirty days is too long,” he said. “I want a result. Three or four days makes no sense.”

Graham later issued a statement expressing support for a stopgap extending through Feb. 8, one week earlier than the House-passed measure.

Democrats, and many of Graham’s fellow Republicans, rejected the offer.

“Three weeks is just kicking it down the road. We ought to stay here this weekend and try to work out a deal,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.

“The problem is still scheduling. The way this was set up for a four week CR is because next week the House was not scheduled to be in session. The next week has a Republican retreat. The next week has a Democrat retreat. And the state of the union is in the middle. So the four week was laid out to actually give us enough time when we are all in town to be able to get it all finished,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said.

But the three-week CR will be the next order of business, and it looks like if the chamber can muster the votes for such an option, the House could follow suit this weekend. Shortly after the Senate vote, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., sent out a statement advising his colleagues that the chamber would be back in at 9 a.m. on Saturday. 

“Members are further advised that we expect the House to be in session and voting on Saturday, January 20,” the statement said, adding, “Please stay tuned to future updates for more information on the nature and timing of votes.”